If you haven’t gotten a good dose of fungi lately, particularly shiitake mushrooms, then you are missing out. Used by the Chinese for over 6000 years, shiitake mushrooms are said to be an aphrodisiac, and can sell for upwards of $40 a pound in US markets. The mushroom gets its name from the Shii tree on which the mushrooms most often grow in Japan. The best part? They offer a host of medicinal and healthful benefits from promoting heart health to boosting longevity. Further, they can be added to salads, brown rice dishes, and a plethora of other recipes to ingest their life-giving nutrients and special compounds.
Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of some important vitamins and minerals. For starters, they have three B vitamins, B2, B5 and B6, and six important trace minerals: phosphorous, selenium, copper, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. Selenium is a known cancer-fighting mineral. The mushrooms also contain vitamin D and protein as well as dietary fiber. Finally, they are a great non-meat source of iron, the blood-fortifying element.
In researching the shiitake mushroom, it was found that it helps boost cardiovascular health by preventing too much immune cell binding to the lining of our blood vessels. Because of specific types of protein molecules (ICAM-1, VCAM-1, and E-selectin) in shiitake mushrooms, which have special adhesion characteristics in their molecules, our blood vessels are protected.
Beta-glucan, the soluble fiber in shiitake mushrooms also binds to cholesterol in the gut by forming a gel-like paste, which absorbs it and then expels it from the body. It is through this process that ‘bad’ cholesterol levels can be lowered by eating shiitake.
What’s more, shiitake mushrooms also boost the immune system and add years to our lives by reducing oxidative stress throughout the body due to their high levels of antioxidants.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.